A Journey of Loss

I've experienced loss a lot in my life, just like everyone else. Growing up I think my first loss was LuLu, our poodle.  My Aunt Debbie died when I was in middle school, my great grandmother Allie Belle died sometime before or after Aunt Debbie.  When I was in high school, Eric Jones, a friend from church unexpectedly lost his life when he fell out of a deer stand.  I think I was 15.  Not too long after that, David Miller, a friend from Parkview was killed in a car accident. In college, my pet raccoon, Zeke, died when I ran over him.  My grandfather died not too long after I was married, a friend from high school died of cancer, and in 2006 we lost a baby.  In fall of that same year, our precious dog Bogey (who showed up after Hurricane Katrina) died and Shelby our yellow lab died this past Christmas.  But all of these were deaths that I didn't have a say in.

This past week, our lab-weimeraner pup Cash was not feeling well.  I had noticed that he was lacking in energy and was eating less, but I attributed that to the horrendous heat that we were experiencing.  I was less energetic and didn't want to eat, so I didn't really think anything of it.  On Wednesday of last week he started throwing up mucus.  On Thursday afternoon, it had turned to blood so we loaded him up and headed to the Emergency Vet.  After an exhaustive list of possibilities and tests that could be run, along with a huge price tag, we decided to head to our regular vet the next morning for the same tests at a much cheaper price.  Friday morning we were there at 8:30.

We waited in the waiting room for a long time because we had no appointment.  When we finally saw the vet, Cash was exhausted, he hadn't slept at all the night before.  Neither had Cheney and I.  We took shifts staying up with our baby.  He couldn't get comfortable because he couldn't breathe.  They drew blood and took x-rays.  I felt so sorry for him because they had to draw blood first and then took 6 x-rays.  Normally, they would have laid him on his back for x-rays, but he panicked because he was having difficulty breathing.  So, in order to get a clear picture, it took 6 tries.  Each time he came back, he ran to us and snuggled.

The results were not good.  His white blood cell count was high, red blood cells were low, and his platelets were critical.  His x-ray revealed fluid on his lungs.  What we thought may have been heartworms was suddenly a lot worse.  There were 3 options:  a tick borne disease like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, cancer, or cardiac failure.  We were given an antibiotic, Lasix to relieve fluid, and an appointment for Monday.

Over the weekend, Cash stopped eating.  We stayed up with him to make sure he was comfortable and began to notice that he was breathing easier.  He was able to lay upside down to sleep - his most favorite position.  On Monday, we took him back to the vet to discover he still had a fever, but had less fluid on his lungs.  I was hopeful.  But his blood tests still weren't good.  His platelets had improved, but white blood cells were still high.  He was fighting something for sure.  This time he was very resistant to leaving us :(

Tuesday, I had to work, but there was no improvement.  As a matter of fact, things were worse.  His energy was zero and he hadn't eaten a full meal since the week before.  He also quit drinking.  So we made the command decision to head back to the vet for an IV.  Cash was given fluids and new medication to help him eat.  When we got home, he was perkier and ate boiled chicken.  He was feeling good.  He barked at birds, cars, and looked good.  Gone were the sad eyes that broke my heart.

Wednesday he didn't eat until I made him meatballs.  He ate about 30 and I started to think that maybe he would pull out of this funk.  However, that was not to be the case.  This morning when we went back for a follow-up, his blood counts were worse.  More x-rays were taken.  When Dr. Courter came in the room she had a grim look on her face.  The x-rays revealed that he no longer had any fluid in his lungs, but he had several masses.  One was blocking his airway which led to the uncomfortable breathing.  She gave us several possibilities for treatment, but none were good and all would probably result in him not making it.  When she left the room, I fell apart.

A student in my classroom at Robert E. Cashion Elementary gave Cash to me as a Christmas present the year that Bogey died.  I carried him home as a 7 week old puppy in the front seat of my car. He fit on the bookshelf and that became a favorite place to hangout. That first night home, we tried him in the kennel, but he cried, so he ended up sleeping in the bed.  Over the years, he began sleeping on the couch, but he always snuggled in the bed first.  He lotved to run and took full advantage of every opportunity.  His favorite place was always the river bottom.  There he could roam and sniff and run for hours.  After coming back from the river, he always collapsed and slept hard!  He loved to fetch golf balls for Cheney, but had great difficulty giving them back.  He hoarded them and then laid on top of them to prevent anyone from taking them.  Every time we would return home, he would meet us at the door with something in his mouth - a sock, a towel, whatever he could find.  After getting wet, he loved to be dried off.  His safe place was standing between your legs while being petted.

Dr. Courter gave us a few minutes to make a decision.  There wasn't much talking - just tears.  Cheney and I both hated to see him suffer.  When we began to cry, Cash became concerned for us.  He wasn't quite sure who to go to first to give love.  That was his nature, to worry about us first. I sat on the floor and loved on him while I said my goodbye.  The doctor came in and gave the first injection and I leaned down and kissed his forehead and told him Momma loved him and I left.  I couldn't stay.  Cheney stayed to the end with Cash's head in his lap until his final breath was taken.  The ride home was quiet.

I have to say, out of all of the losses, this one was the hardest because we had to make a decision to let him go.  I thought he would be here for years.  As I lay in the bed tonight, it feels empty.  Normally, he would be curled up beside me with his head on my leg.

Cash, Momma loves you and misses you...You were a good dog.


Shonda said…
Aw, Shasta. Thanks for sharing. I like that you put those good memories in there. When I was in high school we had to put our dog that we had for most of my life to sleep. It was the worst thing I have ever experienced. We almost had to do that with one of our cats too. I'm so sorry! Cry, cry, cry! I know exactly how you feel! Love and hugs!
Mama Mote said…
I read this after your InstaFriday post. Our pets do become a part of our families and it is so hard to let go. I had a Norwegian Elkhound, Star, and she was 14+ years old when she was weak, couldn't see, arthritic (couldn't get up two stairs without a running start and even then it was hard). So my dad made the decision to take her to the vet. I couldn't go. I cried a lot because I missed her so much. I'm glad to have some pictures somewhere (they're probably in storage since we moved to a place too small for all our stuff). But thanks for sharing Cash's story. He sounds like he was a fun dog. By the way, we had a weimeraner that my mom welcomed in as a stray. No one claimed her, and then we found out she was pregnant. She had lab-weimeraner pups. No mistaken the lab in those puppies. Cash looks just like the one that was my favorite only wihtout the white patch on her head.
Crying my eyes out right now... I am so sorry for your loss. Cash looks like such a fun, sweet dog, and I can only imagine how hard that decision was for you. *Hugs!*